Just a day before a new administration takes office the US Army has finally decided who will be making their Modular Handgun System. It will be Sig Sauer.
From a DoD contract announcement released today:
Sig Sauer Inc., Newington, New Hampshire, was awarded a $580,217,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the Modular Handgun System including handgun, accessories and ammunition to replace the current M9 handgun. Bids were solicited via the Internet with nine received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Jan. 19, 2027. Army Contracting Command, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, is the contracting activity (W15QKN-17-D-0016).More on the contract win from Military.com:
Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, the maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the competition for the Modular Handgun System, or MHS, program.The MHS pistol is reportedly based upon the Sig P320 and both .40 S&W and 9mm were submitted for consideration by the Army. ArmyTimes reports that the first pistols could be fielded by the Army sometime later this year.
"By maximizing full and open competition across our industry partners, we have optimized private sector advancements in handguns, ammunition and magazines, and the end result will ensure a decidedly superior weapon system for our warfighters," Army Acquisition Executive Steffanie Easter said said in a press release.
The Army launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol. One of the major goals of the effort is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45 caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.
In the press release, the service didn't offer any details about what caliber the new Sig Sauer pistol will be.
The procurement of these new handguns has been plagued by some controversy for taking so long.
The Wall Street Journal notes:
Gen. Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff, last year criticized the protracted buying process and said he would prefer to take a check to an outdoor retailer to expedite the process of replacing the pistols used for more than 30 years.The big loser in this is obviously Beretta which held the Army contract for 30 years. Now that they don't have the Army contract any longer, you have to wonder how soon they will be closing up things in Maryland and finishing the move of operations to Gallatin, TN.
“We’re not figuring out the next lunar landing,”” Gen. Milley said at a defense conference last year. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”
The contest included the elimination last year of Smith & Wesson owner American Outdoor Brands Corp. and partner General Dynamics Corp., and the hundreds of pages of requirements for the contract became a focus for critics of the Pentagon’s acquisition system.
The other loser is Glock but they will have their large law enforcement market to fall back upon. It was reported that the decision came down to Glock and Sig.
UPDATE: Sig released these pictures of the XM17 - the military's version of the P320 - on Facebook today.
The release from Sig Sauer that accompanied the photo:
SIG SAUER, Inc. announced today that the U.S. Army has selected the SIG SAUER Model P320 to replace the M9 service pistol currently in use since the mid-1980’s. Released in 2014, the P320 is a polymer striker-fired pistol that has proven itself in both the United States and worldwide markets. The P320 is the first modular pistol with interchangeable grip modules that can also be adjusted in frame size and caliber by the operator. All pistols will be produced at the SIG SAUER facilities in New Hampshire.
The MHS Program provides for the delivery of both full size and compact P320’s, over a period of ten (10) years. All pistols will be configurable to receive silencers and will also include both standard and extended capacity magazines.
“I am tremendously proud of the Modular Handgun System Team,” said Army Acquisition Executive, Steffanie Easter in the release. “By maximizing full and open competition across our industry partners, we truly have optimized the private sector advancements in handguns, ammunition and magazines and the end result will ensure a decidedly superior weapon system for our warfighters.”
Ron Cohen, President and CEO of SIG SAUER, said “We are both humbled and proud that the P320 was selected by the U.S. Army as its weapon of choice. Securing this contract is a testimony to SIG SAUER employees and their commitment to innovation, quality and manufacturing the most reliable firearms in the world.”
UPDATE II: Two more comments on the XM17 from Michael Bane and John Farnam.
First from Michael on the implications for the civilian market.
The implications are pretty obvious. As with the Beretta M9, the Big Army contract, the most coveted handgun contract in the world, will launch the already successful 320 into the stratosphere. Validation by the U.S. military makes the gun an easy chose for a potential flood of other agencies. Over the years I have seen estimates of at least the same amount of sales to other Federal agencies, law enforcement and civilians clamoring to own the same gun the military uses. While the caliber was not announced, let me go out on a limb here and suggest that it will be 9mm. Why? I would say logistics…the huge military pipeline is already set up to provide 9mm ammunition worldwide, and changing to a different caliber would be a nightmare. I once had a very long and fruitful conversation on military logistics by one of the most knowledgeable men in the industry — Ron Cohen, the head of Sig Sauer. Funny, that.Make sure to read his full post on this as it contains other nuggets of wisdom.
The military contract will also open the floodgates of aftermarket parts to support the gun. That aftermarket will be increasingly driven by civilian and LEO acceptance of the 320 as a platform. Obviously, this is already underway with the relationship between Sig and GrayGuns. Bruce Gray, one of the greatest minds in the firearms world, has hammered out the 320 trigger, working essentially as an in-house R&D guy, and has a huge head start on aftermarket 320 parts. There will be lots of others!
John Farnam has more information on the military version of the P320 or the XM17 along with some commentary about the changes in his Farnam's Quips email.
Friends as (sic) SIG tell me these additional details about the pistol that will ultimately be delivered to the Army:
Our military’s version of SIG’s 320 pistol will have a manual safety lever. Of course, most troopers will never be allowed to even have a magazine inserted into the pistol, much less carry the weapon with a round chambered, so the manual safety lever will have little real function.
Two more “enhancements:”
The take-down lever will be “secured” in some way on the right side, so that it cannot be removed at the field level which would allow complete removal of the fire-control unit from the plastic frame.
The slide cover-plate at the back will be “secured” in a similar fashion, and for the same reasons.
Army procurement people obviously do not want “end-users” (the ones who may actually have to shoot someone) taking the gun apart any further than field stripping.
I carried a SIG320 for most of last year. My copy has no manual safety, as I have no interest in one and consider it a mostly useless and unnecessary addition. If I were carrying a 320 with a manual safety, I’d leave it in the “off” position. However, a manual safety that does not exist cannot be inadvertently left in the “on” position, and that is why I like it gone!
Not everyone agrees, however.
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently what need not be done at all”